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2008 Duke Family letter

{I mailed a picture as a post card and on the back simply typed my website with instructions to go to the link to read our letter update.}
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You will be privy to secret information, knowledge untold, fun facts, and tidbits about the Duke Family…brought on by the adventures of 2008. (We also have a private family blog Kristen updates on a weekly or bi-weekly basis–email for more info).

Let’s just get our big family news out at the beginning….we are anticipating Duke baby #4 at the beginning of May. We just found out that it’s looking like it’s going to be a girl. One can never truly believe what those machines say, but that’s what we’ll be expecting. The children are thrilled, but not quite believing because mommy’s tummy hasn’t expanded too much yet.

Our big family trip this year was to Northern California to visit dad’s homeland in July. It had been a long 6 years since we had been back, and as soon as he stepped foot on the soil there, a calming peace fell upon him. We met up with the rest of the Duke clan and stayed for 4 nights in a condo just feet away from the ocean. His dream–Kristen’s nightmare. It’s unfortunate that the beautiful ocean vistas are overpowered by the sticky sensation she feels in such an environment. It was actually quite chilly, so swimming was minimal (and jackets were required) but the kids had fun with their cousins getting wet and sandy every day. Kristen got her wish in photographing the Golden Gate Bridge. Most importantly, we got to strengthen ties with family that we don’t get to see very often.

For Kristen’s family reunion, we didn’t have to travel very far….just an hour away to Canyon Lake, where the extended family stayed at a cabin on the lake for the better part of a week. A large inflatable “island” was purchased by grandma and provided hours of fun for the kids in the lake. A boat and wave runner’s were also rented for the “big kids.” Our little family had a trip all alone for spring break and hiked/camped at Enchanted Rock. It is quite majestic, a large mountainous rock right in the middle of Texas.

Little Miss had her dreams come true when she enrolled in a 7 week Kinderdance class. For months she asked when her dance class was starting. It just ended and she jumped and twirled with the best of them and loved it. She seemed to prefer the more fast paced stuff, so it may be jazz in her future rather than ballet. She started the preschool swap in September and loves meeting up with her friends from church at their homes. She turned 3 in June, but for a while insisted she was still 2. She knows just how to push her brothers’ buttons, but also can make them putty in her hands when she needs them to be. She gave up her binky in April, but took up biting her nails shortly thereafter. She is promised a sparkly ring if she doesn’t bite them, and for the past week, that’s worked. She likes to admire her moms long nails and aspires to that. Her favorite shock and awe thing to do lately is cross her eyes. She doesn’t just cross them though, she makes them really big and crosses them and her mom hates it, but can’t control her laughter because it looks so funny. She loves to watch out the window for daddy to come home and tell him story after story (every detail) of her day. She is excited to be a “mom” to the little baby, as she already cuddles and comforts and puts in time out, her army of “babies.” Strawberry Shortcake being among her favorite. When she sees a real baby at church, she asks to hold them or likes to get really close to their face and shake her head with a smile and say…”hello, baby.” It’s really cute. She loves all things princess, pink, purple, bracelets, and piggytails. All she wants for “C’mismus” is a dollyhouse. She often reminds us that she is a “goy” not a boy. She is delightful and feisty and we love having her in our family.

Our second excitedly began kindergarten this fall, while his mom cried her eyes out at his absence. Ever since his brother started 2 years ago, he’s been counting down the days. A brief fear of fire alarms made him more apprehensive, but he’s conquered that with amazing strength. His teacher says that he is “just like Mary Poppins” in that he is everywhere helping everyone in the class. Kind and thoughtful and the first to help another if they spill their crayons. His mom cried then and there as she heard such a positive report. He is quite competitive, and thinks he should be able to do everything his older brother can do. It frustrates him when he isn’t, but he is figuring out that we all have different strengths. When we read scriptures at night, he struggles through a some words, but big brother is looking over his shoulder helping him, and it is the sweetest thing to see. In the past few months, he’s learned to ride his bike (though he was quite apprehensive at first) and now does it with ease up and down the sidewalk. He is so tender hearted and also loves to hold others babies and hug and kiss them. He has an excellent memory and tells us many details of his day, including stories that were read, which surprises us because big brother never remembered. His most recent feat was the school’s Turkey Trot. Out of the entire kindergarten, he was the first boy to cross the finish line after a mile run. We try not to bring up the girl who crossed just before him. His is lovable and huggable and gives multiple air kisses as he parts with mom in the morning, and loves to kiss on his parents cheeks before bed in the evening.

Mr. smiley got baptized on his 8th birthday in November. Our home was filled with 15 out of town guests including 3 great grand parents, 4 grandparents, 1 great aunt, 1 great uncle, 1 aunt and uncle, and cousins coming to support him in his decision. He handled all that attention well and engaged with his eyes and his smile all the comments and questions and expressions of love that came his way. He just recently began cub scouts, and is excited that his mom is his cub scout leader. He’s found that 2nd grade is just a bit tougher than 1st, but is enjoying all the knowledge that comes with it. His mother, however, is not excited about word problems and dipping into multiplication. He has impeccable spelling skills which comes in handy when the spelling list never makes it out of the folder. One word we did have fun working on as a family was the bonus word: claustrophobia. What grade is this again? He placed 3rd for the second year in a row for the Turkey Trot, and his was a 2 miler this year. He was very red and quite tired at the end. These boys love to run (got that from their daddy). He swam like a champ over the summer, and even began piano lessons. He especially enjoys the Christmas music he’s currently playing. It’s amazing to watch the oldest child tackle things like reading chapter books and quickly solve math facts, and love it. He is a very responsible boy, and when asked to do something, he does it. He has a big, tender heart and is the perfect oldest child, as he is a good example to his younger siblings.
Kristen continues to enjoy the fast paced life of a stay at home mom. Now with 2 kids in school, she finds herself up at the school, or a PTA meeting quite regularly. Her goal is to have lunch with the boys once a week. She was on the planning committee for the schools first 5K fundraiser, the Wing Ding 5k. Having run many 5K’s herself, she was able to provide much needed insight to those also on the planning committee who’d never run one. Her 30th birthday came in July, and though she wasn’t very excited about it, those close to her made it special enough to realize…its just a number. A getaway trip to Connecticut in August was a celebration with 2 of her closest and oldest friends, as they all had the number 30 on their mind. This year, with no babies around, she took advantage with several trips (but felt guilty that there seemed to be so many). After a 4 month break of reflection and re-evaluation, she still runs a photography business out of the home. Not wanting the biz to take precedence over family, she’s decided to just take on 1 paid photography session a month (though November doesn’t count).

Although she decided NOT to photograph weddings 2 years ago, she was flown to Tri Cities, Washington in March and San Diego in August to photograph 2 friends weddings. The Washington trip allowed her to re-connect with a former roommate, see a new part of the country she’d never been, hang out with her brother/his wife, and obtain her 3rd speeding ticket in 6 months (but this one had a really good excuse). Hubby’s mom came to hang out with her son and grandkids for the 5 days she was apart from them. Then in August,  he accompanied her to San Diego, a city neither of them had ever been. The 3 day trip was filled with visiting several friends, going to San Diego’s beautiful Temple, relaxing with each other and having many uninterrupted conversations.

Hubby fulfilled a lifelong dream on our California adventure by renting a surfboard and taking a day to teach himself how to surf. It was quite impressive and we all felt tired just watching him hour after hour get up, fall down, and get back up again. He still competes in triathlons and bike/run races. With his new baby bike he ventured to Houston for a 40K bike race and beat his last year’s time. The family was there to cheer him on….”go Daddy go!” He plotted out a mini triathlon course for the boys around the neighborhood, and they had fun timing transitions and everything. In July, He breezed by his 1 year mark with his new job. He has enjoyed the freedom of heading up a physical therapy clinic. The family likes that he is home by 5:30 every night, and 2:30 on Friday’s. He mostly does his workouts on his lunch break, so he gets to relax and play when he comes home. His favorite is building forts for the kids with PVC pipes, blankets, and clamps. He also re-sodded the front yard and now methodically places the sprinklers “just so” but the neighbor teens keep messing with them. He was also the mastermind behind our first raised garden in the backyard. Only the watermelon survived. His church calling keeps him busy on Sundays and some weeknights, but his favorite part is the opportunity to teach lessons to the men at church on occasion. His new favorite toy is the oversized universal remote he came home with at a white elephant party. Though he doesn’t care for TV much, he really likes the remote.

We are so grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ, and for His life and sacrifice for us. Remembering His birth at this time of year seems to bring a magical happiness to most everyone. We are grateful for the joy of the season. We are blessed to have so many friends and family members who have taught us to serve, and to emulate His example. Thank you for sharing yourselves with us, and may you feel the love of our Savior this holiday season.


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